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Beaton, M C - Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison
Hardback: 224 pages (Oct. 2008) Publisher: Constable Crime ISBN: 1845296478

AGATHA RAISIN AND A SPOONFUL OF POISON is the nineteenth in this popular series set in the Cotswolds which has seen Agatha move from being a retired PR executive to an amateur sleuth and more recently the proud owner of a private detective agency.

It's her PR expertise which is sought at the beginning of AGATHA RAISIN AND A SPOONFUL OF POISON as the vicar of a neighbouring village to Agatha's beloved Carsely wants her help in promoting a village fete which is raising funds for the church roof of Saint Odo the Severe in Comfrey Magna. Agatha is all set to refuse but the opportunity to work closely with an attractive widower with stunning green eyes makes her change her mind.

The fete begins well, with a star musician Agatha has semi-blackmailed into performing bringing in the crowds. However the afternoon ends in tragedy when two elderly women die, one by jumping off the church roof thinking she can fly. It's soon apparent that the jam tasting samples have been spiked with LSD.

Agatha and her team are hired by the vicar to get to the bottom of the matter and it seems obvious to Agatha that the deed was carried out by a local. Agatha and her young sidekick Toni begin by interrogating all the local residents and as is usual is not welcomed by any of them. Several rounds of questioning ensue, Agatha accompanied by a different cast regular each time, including Roy, her ex-employee in his usual outlandish 'country' garb and Sir Charles whose title opens doors.

Agatha gets to the truth eventually but not before she's had her life threatened and has upset a close member of the team. There may be a challenge ahead for the detective agency in the next book...

AGATHA RAISIN AND A SPOONFUL OF POISON is a return to the standard set before the slightly disappointing AGATHA RAISIN AND KISSING CHRISTMAS GOODBYE. The identity of who poisoned the jam isn't obvious until the final revelations, despite Agatha thinking she knows who did it. She's just as likely to be right as wrong. Agatha's love life continues to frustrate the reader as her romantic obsessions (usually with unsuitable men) are the driving force behind the rest of her life. It looks like her former husband James is now off the scene but the ending of the book leaves the possibility of a new (and doomed) relationship looming.

As well as being very non-pc, Agatha is a smoker and constantly berates the recently introduced smoking ban in public buildings. What she'll make of the credit crunch should make for interesting reading. Perhaps she'll even have to tighten her purse strings?

As ever I look forward to the next instalment of the Agatha Raisin chronicles. In this series and the Hamish Macbeth series, M C Beaton whisks the reader away into a cosy setting, the Cotswolds or the Highlands, where a familiar cast act their parts and at the end of the tale, very little has changed but a lot of enjoyment has been had.

Karen Meek, England
October 2008

Karen blogs at Euro Crime.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 12/12/2008 11:04